Ambiance is a word that describes a relaxing, happy atmosphere. That’s what a friend of mine was going for when she added a bunch of lights to her porch. They were supposed to create a nice glow. Instead, they drew a horde of mosquitoes and other pests that drove her and her guests inside as soon as the lights were lit. Outdoor lighting methods are plentiful, but very few seem to solve the bug-attraction problem. That’s why porch railing-mounted lights that offer LED illumination are ideal. If you’re looking for porch lights that don’t attract bugs, you should look to your porch or patio railing.
While you will need at least one bright light near the door of the house, if you’re looking to create ambiance using gentler lights, you don’t have a lot of bug repelling options. There’s the old-fashioned bug zapping light that actually attracts bugs (in order to kill them), and needs to be cleaned out every so often. Or you can use citronella candles that will soon overwhelm the smell of the food or drink you’re trying to enjoy. The best option I’ve come across is to use LED lights on your deck railing and space them out. They won’t flock to LED lights as they would to other types of lighting, and you’ll end up with a beautifully lit, magical-looking porch or deck space.
Why Are Bugs Attracted to Light?
Mosquitos, moths, June beetles, and a whole host of creepy crawlies seem to have one thing in common. They love artificial light. Most light solutions tend to focus on killing bugs rather than keeping them away in the first place, but it’s possible to go the preventative route if you know why bugs like your lights so much. A scientific term called phototaxis describes the fact that bugs are drawn to light, but scientists still have some trouble explaining why they’re drawn to light. A few theories for why insects like light so much are:
- Lights are warm: While bugs aren’t as prone to hypothermia as other living things, they tend to be drawn to warmth. Traditional light bulbs emit a lot of heat, which bugs find attractive. As such, they’ll fly towards that warmth and hover around it.
- Lights confuse the bug’s internal navigation: Many insects and other creatures use moonlight to navigate. This is why, if you’ve ever driven to Key West during sea turtle mating season, you’ll notice that all the streetlights are red. It’s to keep the sea turtles from confusing the street lights with the moon and losing their sense of direction. To animals and insects, the moon and stars act as a compass. Large glowing lights resemble the moon and make insects more likely to get confused.
- Lights mimic mating signals: In a few species of insects, light is used as a signal to attract a mate. Lights of certain wavelengths look more like mates than others, attracting hordes of bugs who are driven by biology to fly toward them.
While scientists are split over the whole ‘why bugs are attracted to light’ question, it seems clear that bugs are more interested in yellow lights that give off high heat. In fact, a study to determine how the type of light bulb used affects the number of bugs attracted found that incandescent light bulbs attracted the most insects (with fluorescent bulbs coming in second), while LEDs, particularly those with a warm color temperature, attracted the least bugs.
Porch Lights That Don’t Attract Bugs: Tricks and Tips
The brightest lighting methods–such as CFLs and incandescent bulbs–tend to attract the most bugs, so how do you illuminate your porch in a way that doesn’t bring the insect hordes, but still provides sufficient light? Here are the big three: the crucial things you want to keep in mind when lighting your patio or porch.
- LED lights are optimal: LEDs are an energy efficient alternative to lighting that is about 90% more efficient than a traditional light bulb. As a result, they also tend to put off less bug-attracting heat. Railing lighting systems often use LEDs, and there are various types to choose from. LED post caps are one style of lighting–they install inside the cap of your railing posts, and can delineate the porch or deck boundaries as well as help illuminate the deck. The bottom line is that LEDs’ energy efficiency, their unattractiveness to insects, and the fact that they’re so long lasting makes them one of the best deck or porch railing lights.
- Use multiple sources of light: Instead of putting up one big light, which might confuse a bug’s internal navigation, consider using multiple sources. You want to go small, which you can do by combining small railing lighting components that can create an overall glow without attracting as many pests. As well as post cap lighting, you can use LED lighting for stair railings, top rails, and balusters in the form of small universal light boxes and vertical post lights. This spreads out the light source, making bugs less likely to be attracted.
- Light closer to the ground: Bugs are more attracted to lights in their flight path. That’s partly why, usually, bugs tend to linger around your overhead lights rather than going for something closer to the ground like a campfire. Because of this, using surface mount lights, which are recessed into your deck or porch boards, can help reduce bug problems. These work well along the edges of your porch, or recessed into the treads or risers of your steps. Other LED lights, like vertical post lights, can also be installed low on your railings–or even on the side of the house–to keep them out of insects’ flight paths.
By spacing out your lights and keeping them lower to the ground, you can get more enjoyment from your outdoor space without using chemicals, zappers, or candles, which can be a fire hazard. And putting your lighting on your railings is a great solution, as railings can hide wires, and are often designed to be integrated with lighting systems.
My friend went with LED railing lighting over large overhead fixtures, and now has the ambiance she was seeking, minus the bugs. Her range of lighting types creates a dispersed effect that is just beautiful, and she loves having friends for drinks on her newly-lit wraparound porch. She used a Fortress Railing system that worked with her existing railing (which was also Fortress) and was easy to install. Even if you don’t already have a Fortress railing system, Fortress lighting is a good choice for your railing, as they have a wide range of options like post cap lights, versatile light boxes, and recessed surface mount lights, which you can add to your railing and porch in all kinds of combinations. And if you’re looking to upgrade your porch or deck, Fortress Building Products also carries unique composite decking and other innovative building products.